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Long hair, leather 'n' spikes and a guitar to dice off the heads of poseurs. There are few bands in the world of heavy metal who know their shit better and have never kept to to the faith so hard than Canada's Razor. These guys are one of my favorite metal bands and I'm glad to begin talking about them. The group's first full-length debut album is this, "Executioner's Song". Unlike the dirty streetwise thrash they would later be known for, the Razor here lets loose with a line teetering between the attacking, gruff rock 'n' roll of Motorhead and the grimy, raw speed metal of their fellow countrymen Exciter. The result is an entertaining little record that begs one to grab a beer or two and headbang the night away with their favorite voluptuous leather-clad honey...or two.
Razor is often referred to by many as the AC/DC of thrash metal due to their no-bullshit song-making; they take a theme or two and run with it with, adding a barrage of riffs in the process. Guitarist and the band's only mainstay Dave Carlo is our star attraction; he seems to be a riff machine, able to spit out any number of shreddings that never bore. On vocals we have Stace "Sheepdog" McLaren, colliding with the listeners' mortal ears with a Lemmy-esque barrage of shouting and grunting, as well as some screechier "oohs" and "aahs"; here they guy has yet to perfect his immortal shrieking. Mike Campagnolo hits back on his bass; this isn't one of his best efforts truthfully; he's somewhat audible and a solid player but not as good on here as he'd later efforts. Mike "M-Bro" rounds out the quartet on the drums. He's a pretty standard player but in all fairness pretty energetic and dependable as well. Enjoy it now, because this is the only time I'd ever describe M-Bro's drumming as anything more than "tolerable".
Eleven straightforward tracks of heavy metal glory permeate the loins of "Executioner's Song". Sure it's nothing special, and some tracks are quite skip-worthy, but in the end this the kind of no-frills goodness that metal is all about. The record starts off strong with "Take This Torch", a pumping speed anthem that begins moody and builds and builds until the catchy and booming chorus arrives to EXPLODE your face off! The fun never stops with "Fast And Loud", a glorious party song that will bang your puny mortal skull WITHOUT spilling that expensive imported lager. The aggressive "City of Damnation" attacks with beastly speed riffs, hooky-as-fuck verses and a notably odd drum tone. "Gatecrasher", another speed demon, comes armed with skull-bruising stop-go riffage in their verses, while the short "Hot Metal" (a personal favorite) comes booming with a really catchy main riff. Another track of particular note is "Distant Thunder", which moves at a more mid-pace and oozes a swaggering atmosphere for much of the song before turning into a more aggressive riff-fest at the end.
Overall, a fine debut for a damn fine band. Some songs aren't memorable or even are skip-worthy, while the production is a bit too muddled and suffers from too much reverb (there's a well-done remaster floating around that's not too hard to get a hold of). Even still, Razor rocks here as they usually always do, and if you want a badass time with riffs and rock a plenty, then give in and allow the executioner to make a house call.
Razor are one of the more well known canadian thrash bands in the metal community, most known for their second album Evil Invaders. Now, these guys were the FIRST canadian thrash band I ever heard and I was completely amazed at how raw, fast and how much attitude they had. I remember the first song me hearing was "Cut Throat" and ever since I have been a huge fan of Razor, definitely in my top 10 bands of all time. And just let me get this out of the way and not wait til the end of the review, if you've never listened to Razor before... FUCKING DO IT! Just thought I would get that out of the way.
This album opens up with speed metal anthem "Take this Torch" which is one of the bands more well known songs. The chorus makes you feel as if you are actually at a Razor gig, in the front row, fist in the air, headbanging and yelling like a fucking maniac "TAKE THIS TORCH! TAKE THIS TORCH!". The vocals get right into it and Sheepdog introduces his style of singing right away. I know some people who actually don't like his shrieks but I don't quite understand how a normal human could not fucking love it. The guitar opens up with a pure fucking fast speed/thrash riff and you can definitely hear the Kill em' All influence here throughout the whole album. The drums are pounding, really punk influenced like almost all early speed/thrash bands. Then we're given Fast and Loud which is a rather cheesy song... "Fast and loud, loud and proud, gotta rock hard to please the crowd" But there's no denying it's a fantastic song. LOVE TO HEAR THAT GUITAR SQUEAL! And then we have City of Damnation which is one of the fastest and best songs on here, it doesn't need any explaining.
Well, I thought i'd just introduce you a bit to the first 3 songs, now i'll talk about the instruments themselves.
The vocals as I have said are really fucking good. The definition of thrash with atittude. And i've been drooling over the screeches Sheepdg does this whole review, so by now I think you'd have an idea of that already. There's a lot of cool parts in songs like Take this Torch, City of Damnation and Gatecrasher which would be awesome to see live, yelling the chorus.
The guitar isn't at all technical but it doesn't fucking have to be. It's simple, raw, fast speed metal riffs. The guitar work in all of Razor's early stuff has always reminded me of Kill 'em All, that raw tone, simple open note riffs with power chord progressions... ah, nothing like some raw thrash to make your day! Overall, the riffs are fast, you can't explain it any better than that. If you really want to know... LISTEN TO THE ALBUM!
The bass is there, you can definitely hear it, nice and clear. There isn't any bass fills or anything but there's a lot of moments where you can hear it overpower the guitar on some riffs in Distant Thunder and Gatecrasher.
The drums are FAST, really punk influenced as previously stated. Like the bass, it doesn't have any stand out parts but it's a background instrument and it's doing what it's supposed to be doing, keeping the music together!
The production is raw, rough and...AWESOME! It gives the album the pure old school feel of the music. The production is a lot like the production on a lot of early 80s thrash bands debut albums. Show no Mercy, Kill 'em All, Bonded by Blood, Killing is my Business, Fistful of Metal, The Legacy, Feel the Fire, Endless Pain, Infernal Overkill, Obsessed by Cruelty... hell, I could go on forever. But if you liked the raw production on those albums then you'll love it here.
Overall, this album is amazing. No really big flaws but sometimes the songs can get a bit repetitive but it never bothered me enough to complain about it. This album's got blazing fast riffs, pounding drums, screechy vocals with a fuck you, lazy attitude and raw production... the epitome of speed metal.
Take this Torch
City of Damnation
Escape the Fire
March of Death
The End (Don't know if I should count this since it's just an outro, but I will anyways since this "song" really annoys me)
Many fans consider Razor's other 1985 album, Evil Invaders to be their true cult masterpiece. Others consider their more punchy, frenetic, and violent later work like Violent Restitution to be their best. While I fall in the latter category, there is no question in my mind that Executioner's Song is not only their most overlooked album, but one of the greatest Canadian heavy metal albums ever conceived.
At its roots its a dirty NWOBHM-inspired record like something you'd have heard from their countrymen Exciter, but more aggressive and certainly contains hints toward their later direction. All the songs are excellent and inspirational. Stace Sheepdog's vocals are gritty and awesome, and Dave Carlo is one of the best riff writers ever. "Take This Torch" is a speed metal anthem of energetic, distinct chords and a great chorus (love that bass):
'Bright lights, now you can see where you are
Far, out in the universe
Now, you, try to escape from this spot
Hot, ready or not
Take this torch'
I don't quite get it either and I don't care, my previous band Extinction Agenda used to cover this song at our rehearsals and my only regret is that we never performed it live. Amazing track, and not the only one on the record. "Fast and Loud" is your typical metal party song but this was no Mötley Crüe, it was far more aggressive and you could totally envision yourself doing a circle mosh and impaling some fool in the head with a spiked gauntlet. "City of Damnation" is simply one of the most amazing and filthy raw speed metal tracks ever written on Earth. If you don't like that chorus part then you don't fucking like real metal. "Escape the Fire" also thrills with its catchy melodic muted riff erupting into the speed and chords and glory. And there are so many more, the molten rocking riffs of "Distant Thunder". The blazing "Hot Metal". The sun-hot "Time Bomb".
If you can't already tell this album burns to the touch. I can feel the sweat on my skin just thinking about it. It makes me want to get a leather mask and a whip, some 80s metal chicks with big hair and then make them dance for me in a cage. This is the world I live in, at least when I hear this record.
Well this is fairly simple album, so I'll make this a quicker review. I had Razor's popular Evil Invaders for the longest time but its greatness didn't really hit me until recently. So I did what I needed to do and took a vast dive into their discography, honestly finding myself disappointed with several of their releases thanks to some horrifyingly odd productions. This was pretty annoying since Evil Invaders had this thunderously heavy mix with gatling-gun guitars rapidly firing away and gave off a rather vile demeanor. Eventually though I got their debut here and right off the bat, my face was blown into pieces. It's not nearly as evil as their follow up, but this quite a fierce beast itself.
Take This Torch ... hot damn, you don't get much catchier than this one. This is the kind of metal I could tune into endlessly and listen to all day everyday. Crazy melodic speed / NWOBHM-ish rhythms, layered with awesome bass lines, fast drums, and insanely memorable vocals along with the ultimate chorus itself. My enjoyment stationed itself throughout the rest of the album but once I was done with it, what came to mind? Sadly, not a lot sticks here and even if I don't argue against simplicity that often, Razor were just a little too simplistic with their debut and at times some of these tracks even sound a bit dated for 1985 (as in this is the kind of stuff people were playing in the early 80's).
Overall though this album really isn't that bad and heck, it's probably my second favorite release from them after Evil Invaders. The majority of it is just kind of a "hit or miss" case though, this goes for just about everything. Sometimes it sounds like McLaren is just slurring out random words and his vocals don't do much, riffs and or drums get repetitive, a song just doesn't work or develop, etc. But for the most part I think if you're a fan of classic 80's metal with an appetite for speed containing layers of NWOBHM influences you could still get a kick out of this. And no joke, but this album is definitely worth hearing for Take This Torch alone anyways. I'd say both Escape The Fire and Gatecrusher are high quality offerings as well, these two wouldn't have sounded out of place on Evil Invaders. I'll admit Fast And Loud is pretty catchy and March Of Death certainly isn't bad either. Deathrace also comes to mind having some of the best and original rhythms off the album.
In final I do feel like I should note that the production is definitely not pretty on this album either, though compared to several of the releases after Evil Invaders, the mix on this one just feels far more complete and listenable. It's fairly raw but with the material at hand here the sound goes together perfectly with the music. Ironically enough the production off their previous Armed And Dangerous EP actually beats out the mix here (which contains a handful of the tracks here), though I have to say I prefer this version of Take This Torch over the EP's. I'd say the cloudy atmosphere gives it a lot of character and McLaren's vocals on this one sound way better with his screams echoing in the distance away and whatnot. This album could really go hand in hand with their previous EP's though, so if you get this you may as well check those out too. Don't expect much of a precursor to Evil Invaders with this one but if you want some commendable Venom worship with it's handful of moments, give it a shot. "Hot, ready or not? Take This Torch!!"
“…welcome to the slaughter…hope you’re having fun…”
Funny enough, the four songs found on the previous year’s Armed and Dangerous ep actually sound less dated than the ones recorded especially for this eleven songer. Obviously, the ep’s tracks weren’t refurbished for this, and the recorded-through-a-chimney production blessing these newer tracks not only dates them harder, it sucks out a layer of potential lethality you know the Canucks can muster at the drop of a hat.
Not to re-describe the tracks from Armed and Dangerous, I’ll just say the seminal “Take This Torch” is still king of the hill with its feverish main riff and star-studded, picture o’ thrash chorus. While a tiny bit more controlled, “Fast and Loud” seconds the motion of the previous track with another raucous chorus. “Hot Metal” is still simplistically catchy while (groan) “The End” never gets off the ground nor tries to, its aim seemingly to end the lp with the punch of a book about rust.
“City of Damnation” is the first of the ‘new’ tracks and despite its quick demeanor and muddy grit sticks to the slightly above average side of life with backing vocals failing to enliven a fairly uneventful chorus, but there is a nifty scream or two in there. “Escape the Fire” grabs the reins “City of Damnation” was too lazy to lean over to get and guides the lp back to solid ground with a more aggressive breaking chorus and short solo bursts. “March of Death” is along the lines of “City of Damnation”, rearing nothing unique or really memorable except for some abrasive Carlo soloing.
“Distant Thunder” is probably the most commercially traditional track the quartet has ever meddled with; dragging a very uninteresting tempo around until the end when the pace builds to a jog, during which they actually attempt an unprecedented (to this day) slice of Maiden-ish euro-zing that truthfully isn’t half bad. The superbly named “Gatecrasher” revolves around an assailing stop-start riff, is admirably quarrelsome, and great ending that includes some fairly clean screams in unexpected Halford-ian sound and style. “Deathrace” (with some lethal solos) equals “City of Damnation” and “March of Death”, while “Time Bomb” manages to saunter by them on the strength of a rhythm a few breaths livelier than conventional. That baby crying at the start and finish of “The End” is me…now this is how you want to end your debut, with a song more feeble and pointless than a contact lens worn by a baby chick.
Some chose to disregarded Razor’s follow-up to this based on its more or less average nature, and while Executioner’s Song may be the weakest product in the band’s catalog by production and songwriting standards, there are moments of grandeur that shouldn’t be missed.
“…this album is dedicated to all who bought it. Play it loud to remove unwanted company…”